Greetings All!

Salutations to all the readers of this humble blog. You probably (read: hopefully) know me as Kuma from reading my anime reviews. Since the old blog idea didn’t work out as well as we would have hoped, we’ve decided to try a communal blog with multiple authors to be more frequently updated and more varied in content. After volunteering to write for behind-the.nihonreview.com, I spent some time thinking of a topic for my first post, and after much deliberation I present to you…

Behind Kuma.

Right now, there is a chair back behind Kuma. A little farther back is my boss’s office (thankfully she isn’t in today, or I could get in trouble and you have no idea how hard it is to get work when you’re a bear). Farther back still is the public access area of the Norton Branch Library, beyond which is idyllic Norton, Ohio, a suburb of Akron, where I live in my bear cave. I also attend The University of Akron on a student exchange program. I get to take classes at the school, while a student there gets to live with the bears. I think I got the better half of the deal. Haven’t heard from the poor sap in a while. I hope he’s doing okay. By the way, I dual major in Psychology and Statistics. I just completed my third year.

My full name is Kuma T. Bear. The “T” is short for Theodore, which I shorten to “Theo”, or sometime just “The.” At 21 years old, I’m getting up there in years for a bear, but I keep healthy by drinking smoothies, playing slow pitch softball in a local league, and playing lots of Dance Dance Revolution (my DDR hadle is Red Kuma, or sometimes RedKuma). For a little mental exercise, I play Magic: the Gathering, mostly Legacy (1.5) and Booster Draft. I’m also a die-hard baseball fan.

As fascinated as I’m sure you are with my life, I have to stay somewhat on theme. Not willing to abandon my Behind Kuma topic, I now present you with…

Behind Kuma’s tastes in anime.

What do I like to see in anime? I like anime that engage me either mentally or emotionally. Anime is an incredibly diverse medium full of unique works, and I try to dig out the rare gem out of all the pervasive formulae that any of us could recite on command. I’m not a fan of mindless entertainment, where I can sit back and let an episode wash over me, basking in the glow of familiarity. The title that has something to say, a message or theme behind the corporately funded moving pictures, the title that does something that hasn’t been done before, these are my favorites. I tend to place smaller influence on aesthetics than most; picture quality and music are all well and good, but if I want good music, I can turn on my iPod, and if I want to look at pretty pictures I can do so without spending $20 on a DVD or clogging up 200 MB of disk space on my computer.

My top 10 anime. (Personal favorites, not necessarily the most objectively excellent titles)

1. FLCL

Does it get any more unique than FLCL? Well, yes, but these titles tend to be completely abstract. FLCL also deals with adolescence, growing up, maturity, and what it really means to be an adult. On the less profound side, some of the most memorable and awesome characters can be found living in the small town of Mabase. Aesthetically, FLCL is top notch, with fantastic direction, a huge variety of art styles, and The Pillows perform most of the music. On top of that, FLCL even has a decent plot, although you really have to watch closely to pick out some of the details. Truly, this is the total package.

Expect a detailed editorial on the ins and outs of FLCL sometime this summer.

2. Now and Then, Here and There

I don’t think there is a more poignant, tragic, and emotional anime out there. Years after watching it, recalling certain scenes still gives me goosebumps. The opposite of “light fare.”

3. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya

Another total package anime that to me is FLCL’s spiritual successor. Haruhi is the most awesome off-the-wall female character since FLCL’s Haruko, and the rest of the cast is no snooze either. TMHS shares many themes with FLCL, and presents a unique approach to storytelling. Oh yeah, and you don’t have to really pay attention to get what is going on.

4. Haibane Renmei

The most enthralling mystery plot I’ve ever seen animated, and thematically one of the most profound, dealing with sin, redemption, and adversity. The incredible artwork and music is the icing on the cake.

5. Kino’s Journey

A collection of short stories that dissects humans and humanity through the travels of Kino the wanderer, and her talking motorad Hermes. This is anime’s answer to Twilight Zone, and each episode will keep you on the edge of your seat as you wait for the twist.

6. Neon Genesis Evangelion

Do I even need to explain this one? If you haven’t seen it, get out there and watch it. This is a classic and one of the most influential anime out there.

7. Gungrave

An epic story full of friendship, betrayal, ambition, and many powerful moments. Anime’s version of The Godfather.

8. Cowboy Bebop

Few shows have as much variety as Cowboy Bebop. With a different musical style in almost every episode, and a ton of different kinds of stories, Cowboy Bebop is a fantastic anime with something for everyone.

9. Fullmetal Alchemist

A compelling story with a powerful message about the value of human life and what it means to be human, while showing humanity at its best and worst.

10. Great Teacher Onizuka

Comedy and Drama brilliantly come together to create GTO. With a unique and well developed cast, led by Onizuka, who is one of the most memorable characters in anime, GTO is pure fun.

I hope you found this insightful. Until next time.

(””)(;,,;)(””)

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